A question that often arises when discussion of the paleo diet comes up is the cost. Is Paleo expensive? You are eating fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, raw nuts, high quality fats and oils, and on top of that, trying to buy organic and local. My answer to this question is that following the Paleo diet CAN BE expensive, but it certainly does not have to be. I think you also need to put it in perspective.
Below is a copy of my receipts from grocery shopping at the local grocery store chain and a little stop at the health food store. I also went to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday and spent $30. Total spent on groceries was $142.94.
With all my groceries, I made food for the entire week. I made egg muffins, homemade larabars, butternut squash soup, tomato kale soup, ratatouille bake, zucchini cakes, shrimp primavera with spaghetti squash, carrot fries, apple breakfast pudding, guacamole, tilapia with red pepper pesto, chicken curry, filet with mashed cauliflower, and turkey burgers. Assume 7 days in week, 3 meals/day (even though this also includes snacks throughout the day too) for 2 people, average cost per meal per person comes out to $3.40.
Now think about eating out. At Starbucks, if you were not following a Paleo diet, you may order a medium coffee, a bagel, and a banana. Total cost would be approximately $6.43. How about lunch? Grab a salad at Panera…. Average cost is about $9. Dinner? Not sure if there is anywhere you can go and get dinner for less than $10. Even if you were not eating out and buying regular groceries (regular = non-Paleo, haha!), your price per meal would probably be around $3 or $4, the same as following the Paleo diet.
Here are 5 tips for eating Paleo on a budget.
- Buy local produce as much as you can. I bought about 7 lbs of product at the farmer’s market for $15.
- Frozen fruits and vegetables are perfectly acceptable. They are easy to use for soups and side dishes for any meal.
- Buy items in bulk when you know you are going to use it before it goes bad, you will be able to freeze it, or you can share it with your friends! J Also, a lot of times, when grocery stores have items on sale, it is cheaper to buy the smaller size. Check the price/ounce on items!
- Online grocery shopping is perfectly acceptable. Try out www.vitacost.com. They have coconut milk for $2/can, almond flour, dried fruit, nuts, etc. Shipping is free if you spend more than $49… which is pretty easy to do. Use Amazon too!
- Eat what is on sale. You do not have to become a major couponer or a ravager of every grocery stores weekly ad, but take a minute either before you go to the store or as soon as you get there to check out the circular. You will be able to see what produce, meats, and fish are the cheapest that week. Buy those!
Paleo does not have to be expensive. I have heard a saying along the lines of “Buy good food now for your health, or pay your medical bills later, your choice.” Unprocessed, whole foods are the way to go! And it will not cost you an arm and a leg!
~ Savannah FitNut aka Morgan McNeal